Ruined kings' palaces are still more numerous in Ireland than kings' crowns. On the following morning we again saw one on the road from Enniscorthy to Arklow. It was the ruins of Ferns, the seat of the last monarchs of Leinster. Monarchs! In this high strain the Irish talk of their kings, although in the rest of Europe this term is reserved for the great sovereigns alone. This monarch was the well-known Mac Murrough, who invited Strongbow and the English over to Ireland; and with him the race of the kings of Leinster became extinct, and Strongbow assumed their rights. The popular traditions make Mac Murrough die of a fearful disease, which, in the last years of his life, rendered him an object of general aversion. The well-known family of the O'Cavenaghs is descended from this last king of Leinster; and the present head of that family still bears the title of The Mac . Over the ruined battlements of the Castle of Ferns there is now hanging an iron basket, in which, as I was told, a fire is lighted on occasions of great national rejoicing. I have remarked these iron baskets on some other Irish ruins, and I believe this kind of illumination is quite peculiar to Ireland.
The remainder of the county of Wexford is as level, as well cultivated, and as pleasing as its commencement. The hedges with which the fields are enclosed consist entirely of furze, and, as these were now covered with blossoms, the distinct yellow boundary lines presented a very peculiar appearance. Here and there were some fields planted with young silver firs, and even thick hedges were sometimes formed of these beautiful trees. A very nice fancy taste, and one that is not usual in Ireland, as was remarked by one of my fellow-passengers, who, as our coachman had previously informed me, was a play-actor from Dublin. Such pleonasms are genuinely Irish.
A fine inviting road lay before us, and a rival coach followed close behind, as we rapidly rolled into the county of Wicklow. We did not even waste time in delivering, in an orderly manner, the letters and parcels which we had for the little villages that lay along the road, but threw them from the coach near the houses
p.232for which they were intended. This is a very usual custom in England. There is, however, generally some person waiting for the coach, to whom the coachman throws the letter-bag or parcel without stopping; but if no one is in attendance, he flings the object in at the house-door if it is open, or, if not, without more ado he throws it on the road, or over the hedge into the garden, having first held it high in the air, so that some one in the house may notice it, and afterwards pick it up. In the same way parcels are often thrown to the coachman as he passes, and by him forwarded to their places of destination. On the English railways, there is attached to those carriages set apart for letters and parcels a large net, which can be extended on moveable iron arms, for the reception of articles flung into them at the various stations, as the train darts past at full speed.
We passed the place where the well-known murder of a landlord named O'Brien was perpetrated a few years since. It is said that the murderer is still undiscovered, although the deed was committed in the open day, and close to a field in which many labourers were at work. So hard is it to discover an evil-doer in Ireland, where there are so many who, if they have not actually lent him a helping hand, at least feel great sympathy for the criminal. Not one-half of the committals for crimes in Ireland are followed by convictions; whilst in England and Scotland conviction generally follows more than two-thirds of the committals. This is clearly proved by the statistics of crime in both countries. In one year of the last decade, the committals in England were 24,443, and the convictions 17,832; that is, the former were to the latter as 8 to 4 4/5. In Ireland, in the same year, there were 26,392 committals, and 12,094 convictions, being in the proportion of 8 to 3 2/3. In another year there were in Ireland 23,822 committals, and 11,194 convictions; in England, on the other hand, there were, the same year, 27,187 committals, and 19,927 convictions. Hence it is evident that in Ireland it is twice as difficult to convict the perpetrator of a crime as in England.
In all the little towns through which we passed the people complained that they were now inundated with beggars, who had migrated from the larger towns where workhouses are erected, and where a stricter watch is kept over them. The last of these little places was Gorey, and some miles beyond it we entered the far-praised county of Wicklow, whose pyramidal mountains had been long beckoning to us in the distance. This county is mountainous throughout, and is almost completely surrounded by plains,on the south by that of Wexford, on the east by that of the Barrow, and on the north by that of the county of Dublin. The mountains
p.233of this district have all a very elegant pointed form; and the highest of them, Lugnaqilla, the Kippure, and the Djouce, rise to 3000 feet, the usual height of the highest mountain summits in Ireland. Decidedly the largest portion of the waters which flow down from their numerous glens, unite in one little river called the Avoca, which falls into the sea at Arklow.